The Bonney Lake Planning Commission held a passionate public hearing last week about the city’s current marijuana business ban, and whether or not it should be lifted.
Close to a half a dozen residents and near-by neighbors spoke to the commission about their thoughts on the ban during the Aug. 16 meeting.
After 45 minutes of testimony, the planning commission voted 4-3 to defer making a recommendation to the City Council until the Sept. 20 meeting.
It appeared the majority of the commission seemed to have their minds already made up — “There’s nothing new here,” Commissioner Davis Baus said, believing the commission hasn’t received any new information from the public hearing that it didn’t already receive from previous hearings and other sources.
Commissioner Winona Jacobsen agreed with Baus that she hasn’t changed her mind yet, “but reviewing a little bit more won’t be harmful.”
When the commission was first tasked with recommending whether the City Council take up a full ban on marijuana businesses, only allow marijuana retailers or allow all marijuana businesses back in November 2014, the commission voted 6-1 to recommend the city allow only marijuana retailers inside city limits.
Only Commissioner Brad Doll dissented; the commission’s composition remains the same today.
The commission’s recommendation to the City Council will be followed by a non-binding advisory vote on the November 7 general election, giving the council a direct line to what city residents think about the current marijuana business ban.
According to Jenna Richardson, HR manager and communications spokeswoman for the city, a decision about the ban will likely be made after both the planning commission makes its recommendation to the city and the advisory vote is complete.
In total, two people at the hearing spoke in favor of lifting the marijuana business ban, and two spoke against. One person spoke neither for or against the ban, but insisted more information must be gathered on the effects a marijuana retail store would have on the city.
Adele Rodriguez, 77 and a resident of Graham, was the first to speak in favor of the city allowing marijuana shops to open inside city limits.
After stating she became a state drug and alcohol counselor in 1996, she rhetorically asked the council why there’s no such thing as a marijuana overdose.
“Because if you laid out 100 joints and a lighter for someone to try and smoke all of them, by the fourth joint they’ve already lost the lighter, ordered a pizza, cuddled with their dog and have fallen asleep,” she said.
Rodriguez then spoke on the difference between THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, and CBD or cannabidol, a chemical that has been found to have anti-psychotic effects (works against the effects of THC) and other alleged healing properties.
“I learned about medical marijuana when my husband was a patient at the University of Washington Cancer Care Unit,” she told the commission. “He died peacefully with cannabis authorized by the University of Washington Cancer Care Unit.”
Rodriguez herself is a medical marijuana user, using CBD products as opposed to painkillers, because she broke her sternum. She said she wanted the city to allow a medical marijuana retail store to open in city limits.
Gewndolyn Fullerton, a Bonney Lake resident, spoke against allowing marijuana businesses to open in Bonney Lake.
She told the commission she moved to the area to experience the nature around the city, but now, “because of this, I’m ready to move. I find myself angry every single day that I have to deal with this kind of situation and this type of degrading of our city, regardless of what people think.”
Fullerton said she was afraid that the city allowing marijuana businesses would send the wrong message to city residents, especially children, and was also worried about the kinds of people that are attracted to marijuana stores and events put on by marijuana businesses.
“You’re going to hurt the other businesses in the community, because I’m not the only one who thinks like this,” she said. “I’m not the only one who will boycott, period, boycott Bonney Lake. I will not shop at Bonney Lake if it means I have to go past a marijuana shop.”
Becky Gibbons, another Bonney Lake resident, then spoke for lifting the ban on the basis that marijuana is safer than prescribed narcotics and the notion that she’d rather keep her tax money within city limits, rather than give it to Buckley.
“Driving while intoxicated, by anything, be it alcohol, be it cannabis, be it oxycontin, it doesn’t matter — it’s all illegal. And you’re still going to have people here in jail that do it anyways,” Gibbons said, speaking against the argument that opening up a marijuana shop will mean more impaired drivers on the road. “The only difference [opening a retail store is] going to make is whether or not my tax money goes to Buckley over there, or stays here in Bonney Lake where it belongs.”
Kelly Walker, Bonney Lake, wanted to make sure the Planning Commission was asking enough questions before making their recommendation to the City Council.
“I think there needs to be more questions raised and more questions asked of what exactly, if we have a medical marijuana dispensary in our town, where our tax money is going,” she said. “How is that going to help our citizens of our town, and also, our city as a whole?”
Walker said while she doesn’t use marijuana, she shops for her husband, who was a medical user before the drug was legalized in the state.
“I can see both sides of it,” she said. “I think we just need more information, and not make a quick decision on this.”
Karen Ewaskow, Bonney Lake, said it didn’t matter how much tax revenue the city may receive by opening up a marijuana retial store.
Ewaskow said she thinks the marijuana issue is money driven, given that the state will be dividing $15 million of marijuana excise taxes among counties and cities that either allow marijuana businesses in their areas or actively house a business, starting in 2018.
“My morals and values are not money driven, so I’m kind of appalled by that,” she said. “I don’t really care what you’re going to use the money for. Someone mentioned parks maybe or something like that? Parks are wonderful, but I think right now, the Bonney Lake as I see it, I see a very thriving Bonney Lake… so I don’t know why you want to bring in an issue like this into this city right now.”